Christmas shopping Dornbush's spree skate

Reigning U.S. silver medalist takes pride in gifting like a champion

Richard Dornbush relishes spending the holidays with his three sisters.
Richard Dornbush relishes spending the holidays with his three sisters. (Courtesy of Richard Dornbush)


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By Lois Elfman, special to
(12/15/2011) - The youngest of four children and the only boy, the pressure is on U.S. men's silver medalist Richard Dornbush to come up with creative Christmas gifts. Thanks to the shopping opportunities available during his international travels, he promises not to disappoint.

"I always win at giving gifts," Dornbush said. "These past three years, I've been very lucky. I've given the best gifts the past three years."

While he somewhat jokingly noted, "I'm just that thoughtful and humble person," he does credit several skating-related trips to Asian countries with his well-earned reputation. One year, he went to the Junior Grand Prix Final in Korea, where he bought his sisters some beautiful amethyst jewelry. Last year, the Final was in China, where he purchased nice scarves and some other items.

This year, his first on the senior Grand Prix circuit, he was assigned to Cup of China, so his shopping was done early.

"Our gifts are always about trying to be thoughtful, not necessarily how much they're worth," Dornbush said of his family. "We always put a ceiling on how much we're allowed to spend on each other. It's usually not that high. It's always the thought that counts."

Dornbush, 20, knows he's fortunate that he's been able to train close to the family's home in Corona, Calif. His coach, Tammy Gambill, is based about 15 minutes from the the house.

Southern California is beautiful, but Dornbush said it's never a white Christmas, although sometimes you do need a jacket. (It's been in the 40s in Los Angeles this week.)

The Dornbush family is always together for Christmas -- even when his oldest sister lived elsewhere during college and early in her career.

"We try to make it as Christmassy as we can without extremely cold weather," Dornbush said. "On Christmas Eve, we'll go to church. After that, we'll drive around. There are a few areas that go all out and do lights, like productions all along their streets. We'll go Christmas light watching."

The Dornbush family varies from year to year in terms of how much they deck the halls.

"Some years we'll do more, some years less," he said. "Usually, we'll decorate the inside more than the outside. I've put up lights a couple of times. I don't really enjoy it. We have a big tree. We'll cover the tables with Christmas-style table cloths. We have a little area with Rockwell Christmas houses. Stuff like that."

Dornbush's mother makes traditional holiday foods, although he's kind of light on details because he simply isn't a big eater.

"Don't get me wrong, I could go for a good In & Out burger (a popular thing in SoCal) any time, but it's just not a big deal for me. If there's a pie in front of me, I'll have a piece," he said.

On Christmas Eve, Dornbush and his sisters exchange gifts. Then on Christmas day, they open the presents from their parents and grandparents.

With three older siblings, the illusion of Santa Claus was blown pretty early.

"They tried to pretend Santa was real, but they'd sort of look at each other," he recalled. "They'd give each other this look and be like, 'Santa?' I was a pretty observant kid, so I barely remember ever believing in Santa. It's not even that they told me he wasn't real, I just figured it out."

He said his mother is good at hiding their gifts, and he and his sisters were often truly surprised about what they received. The overriding sentiment has always been that Christmas is family time.

"That's the thing about Christmas: It is always all about family," said Dornbush, who is quite decisive that he goes nowhere near the rink on Christmas day. "My parents never put too much emphasis on the tradition part. The tradition was that we were around the family and spent time together. I think that is really the important part."